Keller cast a large shadow

Billy Keller ranks as one of Purdue’s all-time underappreciated players. He sacrificed his offense for the sake of team chemistry and to allow Rick Mount and Herm Gilliam to score on the 1969 team that reached the final game of the NCAA tournament. He then went on to play an important role on three Pacers ABA championship teams despite being a seventh-round draft pick. 

(c) 2011, Gold and Black Illustrated. Reprinted by permission

Billy Keller always felt like he had something to prove on the basketball court. Ultimately, that enabled him to prove so many people wrong.

The little kid who was too small to get into his older brother’s pickup games, the kid nicknamed Chubby and Meatball, the kid so dedicated that he practiced guarding his own shadow in his parents’ basement, wound up having a better career than an arena full of bigger, more highly rated players. And if not for two games against UCLA 11 years apart, he would have an even happier story to tell.

A 5-10 point guard built more like a fullback, Keller led Indianapolis Washington to the state high school championship in 1965, was voted Mr. Basketball that year, was a three-year starter at Purdue, was captain of the Big Ten championship and Final Four team of 1969, was the first winner of the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award as the best college player in the country under 6-foot, and then played seven seasons for the Indiana Pacers, who won three ABA championships during that period.

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